Mau is not about settlement of the landless, it’s about greed

Thursday April 2 2009

By JOHN MBARIA

I have been writing on environmental issues over the past nine years. In that period, I have seen how corruption can destroy Kenya’s very lifeblood.

Of all these incidents, two stand out, not merely because of the audacity of their schemers, but also because of their potential threat to the integrity of Kenya as a nation and their threat to the economic livelihood of millions of people.

The first is the 2004 attempt by a cabal of top government officials, personalities from the wildlife conservation fraternity, and British businessmen to privatise the moneymaking ventures of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

The group had even gone ahead to secure funding from the World Bank for a feasibility study and the stage seemed set for the taking over of the public custodian of Kenya’s wildlife, on which tourism, the country’s leading foreign exchange earner, depends.

Wanton destruction

The media rose to the occasion and brought the matter out in the limelight and it was stopped in time. Kenya was saved from a grand conspiracy by rich international businessmen to take over wildlife parks in several African countries.

But we do not seem to have been so successful in stopping the taking over and wanton destruction of the Mau Forest Complex. The Mau is the source of over 70 per cent of the water flowing into Lake Victoria. From the Mau flows the lifeblood of the Maasai Mara National Reserve.

Millions of flamingoes that grace Lake Nakuru depend on the waters flowing from the complex. Millions of farmers depend on the Mau for their very survival because of the rivers that originate there.

The effects of the merciless takeover are already apparent. The evergreen Kericho Town is now experiencing water shortages and residents have to contend with rationing.

Leaders are behind the grabbing of Mau and the decimation of its life-nurturing ecosystem. But by sharing the land with thousands of peasants, they have managed to ensure that the real victims of the destruction will fight to retain their tiny pieces of land that will soon be unproductive as the rains lessen and the local rivers dry up.

The youth in this country need to step up to save Kenya’s legacy. And the starting point is to refuse to be misled by politicians’ propaganda that the Mau saga is a tribal issue.

Top in the minds of the youth should be the fact that politicians fighting to kill the Mau should be charged with high treason.

John Mbaria writes about the environment in The EastAfrican [email protected]